July, 19 2023.
After an eventful 2022/23 League Season, the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) and second tier league, the Nigeria National League (NNL) have both come to resounding conclusions, with Enyimba of Aba winning the elite division to make it a record-extending ninth NPFL title, while Heartland of Owerri scooped the less prestigious NNL Champion of Champions trophy.
Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye-led Interim Management Committee (IMC) saw to the very successful organization of the league that culminated in the Super 6 play-offs.
Only on Sunday, the finalé of the private-sector driven initiative christened the Naija Super 8 between NPFL Vice-Champions Remo Stars and Promoted Sporting Lagos FC, showcased the very best in Nigeria football. The television coverage via cable satellite and live streaming, the mammoth crowd, branding of the stadium and its ambiance, and the quality of skills and energy exhibited by the two youthful South-West rivals.
Next is pre-season, which is often characterized by the transfer and movement of players and coaches. In the light of the above, www.ckdmedia.ng shall in this piece, take a closer look at five (5) top coaches in the NPFL that are open to new offers.
1. The last club coaches by Imama Amapakabo was Abia Warriors of Umuahia, and that was in the 2021/22 NPFL Season. He left the club at the end of the difficult season, having helped them to escape the drop for two consecutive seasons.
The former Sharks of Port Harcourt and Nigerdock of Lagos goalkeeper, who was also one of the Assistant Coaches of the Super Eagles from 2016 to 2020, also had stints as Coach of El-kanemi Warrior of Maiduguri, and Rangers int where he helped the Flying Antelopes end a 32-year-long trophy draught, by guiding the team to win the NPFL in 2016.
While at Abia Warriors, Amapakabo was tapped on several times by many clubs, but especially by their fierce Abia rivals, Enyimba. However, the then management led by Pastor (Chief) Emeka Inyama blocked the move, by insisting that he was still under contract.
That underlines the finesse and tactical soundness of the Coach, who had in the past served as an assistant to top Coaches in the NPFL, like the late Kelechi Emetole, Kadiri Ikhana, and John Obu at sharks, Enyimba int and Rangers int.
2. Coach Kennedy Boboye is a two-time winner of the NPFL title, and he achieved the feat with two different clubs - Plateau United of Jos, and Akwa United of Uyo.
Hardly can one find any Head Coach or Technical Adviser handling clubs in the NPFL with such compelling and illustrious credentials. It is therefore inexplicable to learn that he has yet to be snapped up, after quitting his last job at Akwa United by mutual consent.
Coach Boboye as one of the most flamboyant coaches in the NPFL, had in the time pass, assisted Coach Imama Amapakabo at the U-23 level and Coach Salisu Yusuf at both the home-based Super Eagles and CHAN Eagles setups, as well as the national U-23 Team (Olympic Eagles).
He won the league with Plateau United in 2017 and replicated the feat at Akwa United, thereby giving the Uyo-based Promise Keepers their very first NPFL trophy in history.
3. Coach Mohammed Babaganaru has won the NPFL title, back-to-back as Head Coach of Kano Pillars. He has also had stints with Yobe Desert Stars, El-kanemi Warriors, Nasarawa United and Lobi Stars of Makurdi.
While at Nasarawa United, he guided the Solid Miners to inflict a rare 2-1 home defeat against Pillars at their fortress, the Sani Abacha Stadium. It was the first home loss in 12 years for Pillars, a master-class mastermind by pillars former coach.
Babaganaru was the brain behind Lobi Stars of Makurdi qualifying for the NPFL Super 6, but the team lost a bit of gas at the season-ending tournament in Lagos.
His very first task at Lobi Stars was to successfully rescue the team, which was embroiled in a relegation dog-fight in the 2021/22 season. But at the end of his 18 months contract, which was not renewed, he exited the club and is now in the market as a free agent.
4. Despite speculations linking him with the club he served as Assistant Coach during his years as a Rookie Coach, Coach Abdul Maikaba is still very much in the employment market.
The former FC Abuja, Wikki Tourists, Plateau United, walked away from Enugu after his two-years contract with Rangers International was not renewed, following their inability to win the 2023 NFF Federation Cup.
It's still a possibility for Maikaba to return to the Sai Masu-Gida as Technical Adviser, but at this moment, the former Physics Teacher, is yet to be officially engaged by the four-time NPFL Champions.
The highlight of the career of the veteran Coach, was his ability to turn around the dwindling fortunes of Wikki Tourists, and set them on the path of prosperity. No wonder as soon as he was snapped up by Plateau United in the 2019/20 season, the Bauchi Tourists reclined again, and eventually got relegated at the end of last season. While at Plateau United, the Jos-based club were on the verge of winning the league, when COVID-19 broke out, and eventually disrupted the league. Nonetheless, Plateau United was pronounced the unofficial winners, and Maikaba led them to play in the CAF Champions League, in 2020/21 season.
5. Tope Tony Bulus was the Head Coach of Giwa FC of Jos, as at when the team was doing well in the NPFL , he took over from coach Abdullahi Biffo who recruited rookies who later turned big name in NPFl Charles Henlon the captain, Ibrahim shuibu, ocheme Edoh, Olorunleke ojo, and hosts of others.
Before the exit of the team from the nation's top flight, Coach Tony Bulus piloted the team to an unbeaten run of 14 matches, and he was twice awarded coach of the month, that season. Tony Bulus was the Head Coach of Yobe Desert Stars of Damaturu until the end of the 2022/23 NNL Regular Season, when he quit his position, on mutual consent with the management of the club.
The good job he did with Yobe Stars is evidently glaring for all to see, as the the Desert Stars punched above their weight, while beating NPFL side Gombe United, at the Naija Super 8 Play-offs finals in Akwa Ibom to qualify for the tournament proper as North-East Zonal winners.
The descent results at the glamorous tournament are there for all to see as they held their own in terms of playing good football before exiting the competition.
He was part of the 2016 history-making team at Rangers int, where he worked as an assistant coach to Coach Imama Amapakabo at Rangers International. His other job was as Head Coach of the now defunct Mountain of Fire and Miracles FC Lagos.
No doubt, these are amongst the very best the NPFL has as coaches, and with a new season in the horizon, it is hoped that clubs will move to contract them, and let our domestic players tap from the rich repository of technical and tactical know-how they have built-up.